Big News In Labor: UNITE HERE Rejoins AFL-CIO

Some big news in the labor movement: UNITE HERE, one of the six unions that split from the AFL-CIO in 2005 to form the competing federation Change to Win, has rejoined the AFL-CIO on the closing day of the latter's convention in Pittsburgh.

The 2005 split meant a schism in the labor movement, creating two massive federations in the AFL-CIO and the newfangled, organizing-driven Change to Win, under the charismatic guidance of Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern. That meant two competing power structures, both seeking to organize workers and throw their political weight behind Democratic candidates.

Until today, Change to Win was comprised of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), SEIU, the United Farm Workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and UNITE HERE. It claimed to represent 6 million workers, while the AFL-CIO claimed to represent 11.5 million workers.

UNITE HERE represents workers in the in the hospitality, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries. It's not huge, representing 265,000 workers, but its re-incorporation into the AFL-CIO is a blow to the Change to Win coalition, nonetheless, and a feather in the cap of the AFL-CIO, which is under new leadership as of yesterday, as outgoing President John Sweeney, who led the federation since 1995, retired, and new President Richard Trumka was ushered in.

UNITE HERE has had its problems of late, as some talk had swirled on labor-related blogs that the two merged unions (UNITE and HERE) would split, so the AFL-CIO's newest family member may not be its happiest. Still, it's a win for the AFL-CIO, and acrimony over the decision on Change to Win's part would be unsurprising.